MISSOULA — Senior Kayla Reno had 15 kills on .429 hitting and Montana hit .317 in a quick 25-19, 25-11, 25-22 victory over Weber State Saturday night at the West Auxiliary Gym that snapped the Grizzlies’ two-match losing streak.
Montana (12-13, 9-7 BSC) moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Big Sky Conference standings with the win with two weekends of league play remaining.
The Grizzlies, who are 0-7 against the top four teams in the Big Sky, improved to 9-0 when facing the six teams below them in the standings.
The win came 24 hours after a disappointing five-set loss to Idaho State on Friday, but Montana, which played well against the Bengals, rebounded with its second strong performance against Weber State (7-23, 3-13 BSC) this season.
“It was very important for us tonight that we return to the high level of play we had last night, because I want us to get used to playing at that level on a very consistent basis,” UM coach Jerry Wagner said.
“We were able to push the tempo back in our favor and finish off some of the things we were trying to accomplish this weekend to improve as a team.”
Montana broke free from an 8-8 deadlock in the opening set with three straight points to take the lead for good, and the Grizzlies blitzed the Wildcats in the second set, with 10 kills and no errors on 21 swings to hit .476.
Montana equaled a season high with eight service aces in the match, and it was Sadie Ahearn’s ace, one of three on the night for the freshman, midway through the third set that helped the Grizzlies gain some winning separation.
Montana only had four more kills than Weber State, 36-32, but the Grizzlies played a much cleaner match, and that proved to be the difference. They had only 10 attack errors on the night, two service errors and no blocking errors. The Wildcats had 29 errors in those areas, plus a pair of ball-handling miscues.
Reno’s big night finished off an all-conference-level weekend for the explosive outside hitter. She averaged 4.62 kills per set on .329 hitting against the Bengals and Wildcats.
One night after hitting a negative percentage, junior Kelsey Schile responded with six kills and no errors on 14 attacks to hit .429 against Weber State.
Senior setter Kortney James had 26 assists, seven digs and three blocks, and redshirt junior Natalie Jones added a team-high four blocks.
Montana’s magic number — either UM wins or Northern Colorado losses — to make the Big Sky Conference tournament, which would be the Grizzlies’ first since 2010, is down to two with four matches remaining.
Also at stake on the Grizzlies’ road trip to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah next week: Montana will have its final opportunity to knock off one of the Big Sky leaders when it faces the Lumberjacks Thursday at Flagstaff.
“It was ultra-important for us to get the win tonight and remain at a high level so we stay on track for our next opportunity against a team in front of us,” Wagner said.
Montana will play Northern Arizona on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Southern Utah on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Cedar City, Utah.
— Montana Sports Information